By Kaylena Phagnasay
Ayenaliz Velasquez looking at the artwork on her window drawn by students (Photo by Kaylena Phagnasay)
It's an open floor space. There are drawers full of supplies, with tape and gauze, and treatment tables. On the wall, depictions of human anatomy, from muscles to bones, are hung up. The best view of these medical murals lies in the office of Ayenaliz Velasquez, the 21-year-old assistant athletic trainer of Purchase College.
Velasquez, a recent graduate from Ithaca College, is fueling her passion at Purchase by working with athletes to get them back into action.
Velasquez got her B.S. in athletic training this past spring. During her time at Ithaca College, she worked as an athletic training student. There, she gained experience in covering many sports across the board.
"I just graduated in May, so just having the opportunity to work so soon after is a big deal. I'm just grateful to have gotten the opportunity to be here," said Velasquez.
Leading in the prevention and rehabilitation of all the student-athletes for all 17 varsity teams, Velasquez is translating that knowledge to her time at Purchase.
"I feel like this field of work is important as athletes should have the resource of healthcare providers for them," says Velasquez. "In an emergency situation, if no one was there during the game and someone broke their leg or pulled their ACL or got a concussion and they're knocked out, an athletic trainer would be the first responder. "
Velasquez described the experience of having played sports as having contributed to her journey of becoming the athletic trainer she is today. Velasquez was a 4-year college athlete, where she was a member of the Ithaca College women's track and field team. Her focus was in long jump and sprinting.
"Being around college athletes just reminds me of what I had not that long ago. So, even though I am an athletic trainer, I understand the frustrations that come with being an athlete," says Velasquez.
Purchase Head Men's Basketball Coach and Student-Athlete mentor, Dan Bozzelli, said, "I
The back wall of the training room covered in painted
works of art of human anatomy (Photo by Kaylena Phagnasay)
think she's just like a breath of fresh air. She has an amazing personality. She's fun. She likes to joke around. It's just a lively atmosphere and I think that's been the biggest change. It's more welcome."
Velasquez setting up an exercise for an athlete’s rehabilitation (Photo by Kaylena Phagnasay)
Velasquez points out that her being a young adult poses as a way to connect with the students she treats. "Being younger, I feel like I can get students to trust me a little bit more. I feel like when people talk to adults, it can kind of seem like they're going to get in trouble."
Mia McCants, a sophomore on the women’s volleyball team, has been receiving treatment from Velasquez for her back. McCants has been taught stretches, provided by Velasquez, to aid in further recovery. McCants said, “I think having a young athletic trainer is really cool, I think her ability to relate to, and communicate with us makes it easier for students to actually want to get treatment.”
When it comes to whether she views college athletes as patients or peers, Velasquez was quick to respond. "Patients," she said. "Making that boundary is a little difficult, but I'm your healthcare provider."
Head Athletic Trainer, Amanda Rode, works side-by-side with Velasquez, with just a wall separating their offices. She noted that working with Velasquez has been successful. Rode commented that their goal is the health and wellness of the student-athlete, requiring an intellectual humility that Velasquez showcases through her curiosity.
"People, oftentimes, are coming in because they're injured. To have someone who can look on the bright side, be positive, and kind of turn it around a little bit, is really helpful," said Rode. "She creates that positive atmosphere of we're in this together. That kind of camaraderie that can very easily go missing."
Ayenaliz Velasquez demonstrates an exercise to athletes
(Photo by Kaylena Phagnasay)
Velasquez's day consists of emails, creating rehab plans, and attending games on standby. For games, Velasquez said, "I need at least three hours before to set up and make sure everyone's taped. On a bad day, I usually come home at 10, 10:30 p.m.." Even on days when there are no games, athletes drop into the training room to receive care throughout the day. With the transition from different seasons of sports, more athletes have been visiting the training room.
Phillip Dragovich, a sophomore and Purchase Men's baseball team member, is one of many who have received care from Velasquez. Dragovich said, "She's uncovered a lot of issues that led to my injury that we're fixing."
Dragovich has been coming into the training room to rehabilitate his shins. Velasquez has given Dragovich a routine to help him in his recovery, which involves calf and glute strengthening, as well as ankle and hip mobility exercises. “She's a very kind, caring person who knows how to do her job very well," Dragovich says.
Velasquez doing an evaluation on an athlete’s leg (Photo by Kaylena Phagnasay)
When she's not at work, Velasquez takes time to decompress. "Not gonna lie, I take naps. I like doing self-care, like doing my nails, hair, all that stuff," Velasquez said. "I sleep in when I can. I've been working out my food schedules. Sometimes you forget to eat. Sometimes you are working so hard that you don't have time to sit down for five minutes and heat your food."
"To be honest, I'm seeing a ton of athletes coming in here. I think it's because of her, and what she's done so far in her short time here," said Bozzelli. "I get to see every day how hard she works, how long she works, and her ability to connect and build relationships with the student-athletes. It's been a lot of fun to watch, and we're just really lucky to have her."